Our little hurricaine Ruby Jane is 5 today.

Five.

Always the hardest birthday for this tenderhearted mama.

There is no denying that the precious baby days have come to an end.

It doesn’t happen in an instant but there is a switch that flips at 5.

The rapid approach to independence accelerates and their little faces loose the trace of baby cheeks for good.

I cry a lot on birthdays.

They are bittersweet for me. I delight in the celebration and love to decorate and bake for my sweethearts…..but in the in-between my mama heart aches with the tangible loss of yesterdays and last years. It seems it will always be so. Even if I am a blessed to live long enough to be a great grammy I know I will relish every snuggle of those babies……but…..as my lips kiss those cheeks I know they will long for the days I live in right now. For my own babies and their pudgy little faces.

Ruby Jane is my third baby to reach this milestone. It isn’t easier. But I am so blessed….so extremely blessed to have such a precious little one to love so deeply.

She is something special. Truly. I think my sweet mama summed it up perfectly today on her facebook page:

Thoughts of a certain little princess fill my heart today – she is loving and lovely, funny and feisty, dreamy and dramatic, merry and magical. God’s priceless gift to us right on time to mend our hearts. She could not be more precious or more loved. Happy 5th Birthday to our sassy and sparkly, one and only, Ruby Jane!

My first homebirth baby. Still so vivid in my spirit. Such a beautiful experience to match this beautiful child.

{her birth video can be found here}

Her Bebum would be mighty proud of his namesake.

So we will celebrate…for three days in fact.

Dinner with our favorites and cookie cake tonight. Getting her ears pierced tomorrow and on Saturday a Winter Wonderland party for our little winter princess.

Happy Birthday Darling One. Oh how we love you.

RJ52

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one + one = one | personal

Seventeen years.

On the 23rd my hotty toddy and I celebrated 17 years of marriage.

Opposites attract until they don’t. Then they repel.

Boy can they repel.

There were long seasons where we couldn’t muster 5 minutes of friendship….let alone become one.

But God.

17

Today my heart is so intricately intertwined with his I can’t imagine it beating any other way.

That is a gift. I do not take it for granted. Not ever.

A dear friend of ours lost her husband last week. Unexpectedly. From one moment to the next her soul was split in two.

I can not imagine the hole that would leave.

All of the never agains.

I have prayed a thousand times for her. For their three babies.

Our only earthly guarantee is right now. Any kiss could be our last.

Any photograph could be the last image we leave behind. The last glimpse of something precious.

So take them. Take pictures. Make portraits. Capture. Preserve. Often.

It is easy with our children. It is human nature to want to record those shiny and new little faces.

But how much we forget. How much we neglect.

We all have the images from when we were first dating. When love was shiny and new. We have the wedding albums on the coffee table. But how quickly we forget to remember the rest. We stop taking images of each other and we focus on the babies. It is so important to capture our marriages too. To preserve the way it looks when that weathered love settles into our souls and we find sanctuary.

To record the way we fit together just so.

Because we won’t always. The truth is one of us…tomorrow or 60 years from now….will leave this earth first.

So we have to capture it. That fleeting second that will never return. For our future selves. For our babies.

You don’t have to be a photographer to do this.

Snapshots are always better than nothing.

Always.

couples

But……a least once every few years….have someone capture it for you. I am always employing my kids or my camera remote to capture us but some of my favorite shots are from a shoot we did with Simple Moments Photography. A fun themed couples shoot is something everyone should do at least once. I love these images and I am so thankful to have them. It was so nice to just be there and  trust in the artistic vision of someone else.

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Some of my favorite shots are of couples. I always encourage parents to let the kids run for a minute and steal away a moment with me and my camera. I know these images will be cherished.

I know some quiet night many years from now…..a shaking hand will hold this image and for a moment……empty arms will be full.

So Cherish. Love. Enjoy.

and photograph.

to remember.

much love :: emcj

{a few favorites of mine}

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baby archer | the birth

Nine months. Today.

This bundle of boy has been earthside about as long as he was tucked in my belly.

Hard to believe.

I wanted to post his birth story {I have written one for each child}. I know it isn’t everyone’s cup of tea…

But I could read them all day.

I am ever fascinated by the unique and wonderful ways we all emerge into this place. I am convinced that births match the children they belong to. Each of my five experiences hold such clever clues into who those babies grow to be. Birth stories aren’t just about the babies. Mamas are birthed in that moment as well. Warriors arise and souls are etched. It enchants me.

Everytime.

So here is the story of Archer. Written when he was 5 days new. As this is very likely my last birth I must say it was quite a sendoff. I am also including a few of my favorite images and a video taken by my brilliant friend and anointed birth photog Amanda {Raleigh Birth Photography}. They will forever be counted among my most sacred possessions.

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My darling baby Archer Patrick…..only five days since my eyes first fell on your perfect little face and already every facet of my soul includes your presence. You have held surprise after surprise and our journey together has been one unlike I have ever traveled but God has been so abundantly good…..so infinitely faithful…..I can only imagine the destiny He has planned for you my precious boy….you are a priceless treasure….one I certainly do not deserve…..but I will marvel and delight and praise and steward my little ‘specimen of awe and wonder’ (the word Daddy got for you the week you were born) with all that I have for all of my days…..

It had been a busy summer and it was turning into an even busier Fall….Sissy and Tucker were attending school and we were gearing up to find a whole new schedule and flavor in our family. A few hours after I had dropped Sissy off for her first day of school I was sitting at the computer when all of a sudden a wave of nausea washed over me. I instantly froze. Unable to wrap my brain around any other explanation I went and got something to eat and put it out of my mind. I was late. It had crossed my mind that something could possibly be brewing but I was totally asymptomatic…..until now. We went to dinner at Beans that night with Grammy and Dado and on the way home I popped in and bought a test. I was SURE it would be negative….after all how could we POSSIBLY have a baby right now…..but the moment I took that test a giant positive was right there….undeniably announcing that God was at work in ways we couldn’t possibly fathom. It was quite a shock and our human brains began to think of all the reasons this couldn’t work…..all the while….God was working….His perfect plans….coming to life…inside me…..inside you. It was a warm night and…needing another perspective….our precious Miss DeAnne met us in the cul-de-sac and I told her the news. She was overjoyed and continued to encourage me that this was a wonderful and blessed event….her joy spoke so clearly to my soul in that moment….you were an amazing gift…..and God would provide….He always does. Before we hugged and went inside from the corner of my eye I happened to see a shooting star streak across the dark sprinkled sky. Like a kiss from heaven telling me that this rare and precious and unexpected moment was a gift straight from my Abba’s hands and I should rejoice. So I did. Quietly at first but soon my soul began to soar with joy that you were coming. Grammy and Dado were the next to know…..the next morning….they were as surprised as we were but rejoiced for a new little life to add to our wild farm family.

The early pregnancy soon turned into camping on the couch and throwing up all day. Not an easy fate with littles to take care of but we were loved and supported in so many ways by so many amazing people…..you steadily grew despite the difficulty and it was soon time for our ultrasound. For the past couple months I had been trying to shake the feeling that something was seriously amiss. I couldn’t figure out why I was so anxious about the impending ultrasound. It isn’t my style. But I was. I knew there was some major revelation and my mind kept wanting to assume it was horrible news. Surely you would be our last baby so surely you were the little girl that God spoke to me about all those years ago. No question in my mind. I knew you were a girl…so that couldn’t be the surprise…..there must be a health issue. The night before the appointment I could hardly sleep. My spirit knew the day was going to hold something unusual and I was uneasy. While Daddy got his shower I decided to seek some comfort in my Bible. Unable to concentrate I just opened it up and my eyes fell instantly upon Isaiah 48…right at the top of the page:

This is new, brand new

something you’d never guess or dream up.

When you hear this you won’t be able to say,

‘I knew that all along’.

My heart stopped. I went in to tell Daddy that either you were a BOY or we are going to be getting some really bad news. The moment the ultrasound tech placed the wand on my belly we had our answer…BOY PARTS filled the screen…..Grammy Daddy and I erupted with laughter…equal parts relief and shock. Another boy?? Indeed. There was no question about that screen shot. Another boy. Whole and healthy and perfect. God’s goodness overflows. Baby Archer. Archer Patrick. Oh my goodness. Little did I know how true that verse would prove to be over and over. Your entire journey…earthside and beyond…has been a new and unexpected adventure….but we know who wrote the story and He is faithful to carry us across each chapter.

It was warm and sunny on April 11th….and mulch was on sale…..so when Daddy got home from work at 3pm we set out for Lowe’s and loaded up. 50 bags and a few pots of colorful goodies came rolling home and we set to work. Daddy hauled and I spread. I finished around 6pm and went in for a shower while Daddy finished mowing. I was exhausted and starving and slightly distracted as I rushed to get ready to head to dinner but even in that state I began to notice…..they weren’t strong and the weren’t particularly low but they were there…and rhythmic…..contractions….hmmmm. We decided on La Fiesta for dinner and pulled our Armada full of people into the parking lot at exactly 7pm….just as we did I felt it….that first real contraction that instantaneously tells you everything you have waited so long to know…..it is time. As we walked to our table we saw the Crawfords had the same idea! We spoke and laughed and sat down to dinner. As our server walked up I couldn’t believe my eyes….his name…was NEMO….the pet name Miss DeAnne had called you from day one…..we all saw it….clearly a sign! I began to notice the timing of my surges through dinner…steady at 6 mins apart. I began to settle into the reality that this was labor and hoped to myself that we could have a baby by sunrise….

Each of my labors has been different but all shared a slow and steady pattern of progression…getting longer with each baby. I couldn’t put my finger on why I had felt so strangely about this birth. My head and heart were not in the same place I was used to being at this point….something was different….I could sense it but couldn’t name it. I had faithfully prepared our space to birth but I couldn’t visualize it. I had made all the physical preparations for a long labor but my mind refused to occupy the idea. I had puzzled at this unfamiliar reaction but refused to let it shake my resolve that you would be brought safely into the world in the way we intended…..I trusted my body and I trusted my baby and I trusted my Jesus. We could do this. Together…..

As we headed home around 8ish things were clearly moving. I began to message our birth team just to give them a heads up that they should head to bed as it might be an early morning! Each surge was completely manageable but becoming more attention seeking. We got the littles to bed and began to prepare our bed and bedroom. Grammy arrived around 9pm. I tried to get her to go back home as I planned on laying my exhausted self down and trying to sleep some but she insisted she would stay…..I am so thankful she did. Around 10ish we convinced Delainey to go to bed with the promise we would wake her as soon as it was time to call the midwife. After a bit of cleaning and chatting we decided to get some sleep too. Contractions were still around 5 mins apart and not overwhelming. Todd and I laid down around 11. It didn’t last long. My back was starting to spasm laying there so I got up around 11:30 and decided to take a quick bath. It felt so good to be in the water but knowing that surely we were hours and hours and hours from a baby I got out and decided to walk a bit downstairs. After only a few laps around the kitchen the contractions were becoming intense….I remember stopping in the living room and really having to breathe through it…..hmmmmm. After a while I came back upstairs and…feeling every bit of that busy afternoon…decided to try to lay down one more time. This time the couch and after some TLC from Grammy and the oil diffuser at my head I settled into a nice restful pattern. Daddy went back to bed and Grammy rested on the couch beside mine. I was having very strong surges at this point….still 5 mins apart….having to really concentrate and blow to get through them but I managed to doze in between……then it happened….a surge began to rise and SPLOOSH….my water broke….gushing out all over the couch….it was 1:20am. In all my labors I have never felt that before and that surprise signaled the start of a string of surprises as you made your way earthside……our path was uniquely ours little one….

After jumping up and announcing my water broke Grammy hopped up and Daddy came flying in. As Grammy mopped up the couch I went in to change my soaked clothing. It took almost no time for the flavor of the contractions to radically alter…..there was no way I was going to be resting through these…..they were triple the strength and coming right on top of each other. I still couldn’t imagine how close we were to a baby and tried to internally prepare myself for many hours of this to come…..as I stood at the sink putting my hair up and amniotic fluid dripping onto the pad below me it became quite pink…..things were moving…..I wanted to be in the water. So I hopped back in our bath tub and worked my way through some seriously intense surges. I remember at some point Daddy asking if he should call everyone and I told him no. It was the middle of the night and how could the girl who has 14 hour labors possibly be anywhere close to a baby…..I will be forever grateful that he didn’t listen to me. DeAnne was the first to arrive as Daddy worked to get the birth tub filled. Aunt Dudi was next to come and she began helping him by warming water on the stove and hauling it up the stairs. I was in another zone. The contractions were coming right on top of each other and were taking every ounce of strength I had to stay focused. Internally I began a minor freak out. Why were these so hard so soon? Why wasn’t I able to find a peaceful place in the midst of each surge? Why was I struggling so much this time? How could I possibly keep this pace up for 8 more hours. All of those strange premonitions about this birth came rushing back…..but I had to put them away. My energy was needed elsewhere and I continued to breathe as Grammy encouraged me and prayed over us and affirmed my ability to DO THIS. I felt for my cervix and there was a nice hard baby head….still plenty of cervix around it but there you were….the first time you had been touched…..I will never forget that. As soon as there was a bit of water in the birth tub I stood to get in. The moment my body lifted I was hit with a huge contraction. Standing there leaned over the bathtub my legs began to shake……my normal transition activity…..hmmmm.

I made the quick trip to the birthing tub and was instantly soothed by the soft floor and the warm water. It was still quite shallow but enough to cover my belly when I leaned over in a frog position….which was the only way my body wanted to be during the surges. Charleigh came in soon after. We were almost all here. It is impossible to express the power garnered from having amazing women around you in labor. They don’t even have to say anything….it is simply their presence that fills the room with love and support and it is a deep well of strength that I truly need to drink from in those moments. Amanda our amazing birth photographer was next to arrive and I truly breathed a sigh of relief. Your journey would be captured by a most gifted artist. In between the arrivals I was trying to keep myself calm as the contractions intensified with each surge. It was in the middle of probably my third hard contraction in the tub that I felt my body involuntarily push a little. It took me by such surprise that I actually managed to speak in the middle of the surge and said “my body just pushed!”….it startled me because I have never done that before…..I have always had to methodically push once I was complete and I was worried that this would make my cervix swell. After the next contraction (where I didn’t feel any pushing) I checked my cervix again….lots more head this time but still a very clear lip of cervix….I’m guessing I was a 7 or 8….I tend to hang out in that spot for a long time so I still had no inclination what was coming. I sat back for my minute or two of a breather….the midwives still had not made it and it never occurred to me to wake the littles since I figured we still had hours to go….the next contraction came and I assumed my position…..this one roared over me like a lion…I felt an entire universe of energy pour down over my shoulders and into my belly. Grammy was to my left talking me through the surge…Daddy was behind me doing hip compressions and I told him to squeeze harder…..at that exact moment I felt you descend……that last huge rush of pressure right before a baby crowns was suddenly there and…all I could say was “I can feel his head” as in total disbelief and utter instinct I eased your head out as slowly as I could. Grammy was as shocked as I was and reached into the water just in time to help as your beautiful little head was born. I will never forget the image of your perfect left ear upon that perfectly round head of dark hair under the clear water. Time seemed to stand still in that instant as you slowly turned your precious face toward us. I pushed again and there you were. Whole and complete and here. Grammy and I….ecstatic and shocked and filled with joy…..both lifted you from the water. It was 2:36 am and you were earthside. The moment you broke the surface you were crying….strong and loud…..reassuring us all that you were perfect. There is nothing like that moment….in all the earth…..I have done it five times now and it is as equally amazing and life altering every single time. Delainey and Tucker were there as you were born and after a good long look Tucker was eager to wake the littles and they came in to meet you too. We were all in love…right from the start. You were such a champ at crying that we never had to suction you at all. We wrapped you in towels and Daddy and I admired every little detail you posses. Miss DeAnne and Aunt Charleigh got their turns to meet you too….how blessed we are little one to have so many people to love and support us. The midwives arrived about twenty minutes later and we transitioned to the bed. Dado was next to arrive and marveled at you like the rest of us. Your cord was already flat so Daddy….a true expert at this by now….cut it in one snip…I always feel a little twinge of sadness at that moment…..the final disconnect of your sweet body from mine….what an honor it is to grow a baby…..what a gift each little self is. Your placenta was ready to come and looked much less red than my last three….I guess that extra 2.5 weeks of feeding you takes a toll! You latched perfectly almost instantly and fed happily. Your newborn exam confirmed what we already knew….you were fearfully and wonderfully made and MUCH bigger than any of us guessed….8 lbs. 15 ozs….22 inches long and a head circumference of 14.5! The rest of those wee morning hours were spent in the euphoric haze of birth…..kisses and laughter and joy and gratitude all mingled into the ecstatic cocktail of new life. Eventually all the kiddos headed back to bed and our birth team cleared out and headed home. Grammy stayed and went to rest on the couch while you me and Daddy laid down to {finally} get some sleep……but I could hardly close my eyes. You were far too fascinating and I was still in total disbelief at the adventure of your earthside journey. You are far too precious a gift to be so easily obtained….but I can only thank my precious Savior for His goodness and faithfulness to answer every prayer….even down to the day you were born….I had prayed for a Sunday baby. Birth is such a transforming experience…..so long prepared for and anticipated….it is always so strange when it is over and suddenly there is a baby……everything changes…in all the best ways…..

We are so blessed to have you sweet baby Archer Patrick….and we joke that we named you well since you shot out like an arrow! I know God has great plans for you…..and you will surely move mountains….but for now….I will cradle your tiny self and breathe deeply the purity you posses and I will nourish you with all that I have and I will love you entirely…..for you are my baby boy and I am so very thankful……

Click Here For {The Video}

A few of my faves……

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Begin Again…. & Again  | personal

A new year always conjures the promise of new habits and discipline and a better self emerging from the carcass of that older outdated version……but really……at the strike of midnight…I am still just plain old me. The decision to be different isn’t dependent on the calendar….

It is a daily surrender and it can begin whenever we decide it should.

I have decided.

{again}

To be a faithful blogger.

{among other things}

So here we are….ages after my last post.

Let’s see…..

The end of 2014 was spent throwing up all day long for months but joyfully {most days} growing baby #5. Archer Patrick was born on 4.12.15 {post coming soon} and has been a big ball of sunshine ever since. He is simultaneously my easiest baby and my hardest mama journey. The transition to 5 kids was actually pretty seamless but after a very difficult nursing journey together and his subsequent {and necessary} weaning this mama has struggled. God is faithful and even when things aren’t anything like we had hoped or imagined His blessings are still everywhere when we choose to look for them. Archer is now a giant baby and at just shy of 9 months is quickly outgrowing his 18 month clothing. He is happy and funny and delightful in every way. He is a Daddy’s boy and adores all these kids running around this house not to mention our new puppy Watson! He lights up whenever he sees a face and when those little giggles turn to deep belly laughs the entire world changes color and begins to glow. Oh how we love our baby Archer.

I mainly sat 2015 out as far as taking sessions with clients (although there were a few wonderful ones) but my camera was never still inside the house. I did a daily shot for his first 6 weeks and have done a weekly one ever since. I compiled most of them {and a few birth pics from the incredible Amanda of Raleigh Birth Photography} on a big canvas for my parents this Christmas….

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I loved it so much I had to order one for me too…..even though there is literally nowhere left to hang it! I have had the massive honor to do a few amazing boudoir sessions lately….next to birth and newborns it is my favorite kind of session. Every woman should have the gift of seeing how beautiful they really are….it is a catch 22 however…I so want to show these amazing images to the world but they are truly for hubby’s eyes only…..I may experiment with a way to find a middle ground there!

So…..we will be seeing more of each other this year. I will be posting some highlights from the past and all the future holds….

For Ruby Laine as well as the ever changing seasons in this wild and crazy and wonderful family of mine…

Much Love :: EMCJ

{a few favorite images from this past year}

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Love & Art  |  engagements

{March 22nd 2013}

I love L O V E.

Love is powerful in all its forms but the love of an engaged couple has a particular magic.

The anticipation is rich and tangible…

Promises and forevers…untarnished by time…gleam in their gazes.

These two young lovers have a magic all their own.

We spent the afternoon traipsing around the beautiful NC Museum of Art

laughing and snapping as the golden hour slipped into the ether.

It is always an honor to photograph seasons in life but capturing this season…for this couple…was particularly sweet.

Devon and Kristy love each other….a lot….and it is beautiful to behold.

They were open and trusting and it was my joy to share this experience.

May God bless you both with a lifetime of  the love I witnessed.

I pray His hand upon you both all the days of your marriage…may your union bless others and glorify Him always…

Love each other….even when it is hard….because it is worth it.

Looking forward to meeting those babies….all six of them!

Much Love :: emcj

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